The Cronulla Sharks have leapt to the defence of Billy Slater after he was penalised for throwing his body at Sosaia Feki to save a try.
The Storm may have prevailed 22-6 in the preliminary final win, but Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan and retiring forward Luke Lewis held no grudges.
The pair were adamant Slater shouldn’t face any time on the sidelines for the shoulder charge offence, saying he just put his body on the line.
“What do you want him to do?” Lewis said.
“He’s one of the best defensive fullbacks in the game and you have to stop a try and put your body on the line.
“If someone was to miss a game for something like that, I don’t know what our game would be coming to. It’s a contact sport.
“I don’t think there was anything in it to be honest. If there’s anyone I want see play on grand final day, it’s Billy Slater.”
Slater faces a nervous wait to see if he is sanctioned for a shoulder charge on Feki, with his playing future in the hands of the NRL judiciary.
A charge would attract 200 demerit points, enough to rule him out of next Sunday’s decider against South Sydney or the Sydney Roosters.
The former Kangaroos and Queensland fullback would need to successfully fight the punishment at the NRL judiciary to have any hope of ending his career in the ANZ stadium showpiece.
Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan was also asked about the incident in the post-match presser, and was blatant in his response.
“I thought he had a hand in there actually, I just had a quick look at it then and I thought he hit him with one shoulder and one hand,” Flanagan said.
“For his team he needs to save a try there and I think he did his best, so I’m not quite sure.”
“100 percent he should be there, as I said in the game he runs across and I thought whether it was his right or left arm there in a push motion so he’ll be there next week, or he should be.”
Slater said after the match he wasn’t concerned that he would be charged over the tackle.
“I wasn’t worried at the time,” Slater said, without having seen a replay.
“When it was a penalty I thought what was the penalty for, but then I realised I got my body in an awkward position.
“It’s pretty hard to make a conventional tackle when you’re going across at top speed trying to save a try like that … It was just a collision.”
He was also backed by coach Craig Bellamy, who hadn’t seen replays when quizzed after the match.
“I didn’t think straight away that I’m worried about that,” Bellamy said.
“I didn’t think there was too much in it from that.”
“But having said that I haven’t suffered it closely.”
If Slater was to be charged, he would follow in the footsteps of captain Cameron Smith who missed the 2008 grand final due to a suspension.